“No, sir,” Darrin answered.
“That was because no bells were sounded,” explained Benson. “From deck or conning tower signals can be sent that make no noise. On a dark night, or in a fog, we could manoeuvre, perhaps, within a stone’s throw of an enemy’s battleship, and the only sound that might betray our presence would be our wash as we moved along. Take the wheel, Mr. Farley.”
Then, after giving Farley a few directions as to the course to follow, Lieutenant Benson added:
“Take command of the deck, Mr. Farley.”
“Humph!” muttered Dan. “The lieutenant doesn’t seem to be afraid that we’ll run his craft into any danger.”
“He knows as well as we do what would happen to me, if there were any disaster, and I had to explain it before a court of inquiry,” laughed Midshipman Farley. “Hello! Who slowed the boat down?”
Dan had done it, unobserved by his comrades, in an irrepressible spirit of mischief. He had reached over, touching the indicator, and thus directing the engine-room man to proceed at less speed. Dalzell, however, did not answer.
“I’d like to know if the speed were slackened intentionally,” fussed Farley. “Darry, do you mind going below and inquiring?”
“Not in the least,” smiled Dave, “but is it good Naval etiquette for one midshipman to use another midshipman as a messenger?”
“Oh, bother etiquette!” grunted Farley. “What would you really do if you were in command of the deck—–as I am—–and you wanted to ask a question, with the answer down below?”
“I’ll go to the conning tower and summon a man on deck, if you wish,” Dave offered.
Farley nodded, so Dave stepped over to the conning tower, calling down:
“One man of the watch—–on deck!”
Seaman Mallock was on deck in a hurry, saluting Midshipman Farley.
“Mallock, report to Lieutenant Benson, or the next ranking officer who may be visible below. Report with my compliments that the speed of the craft has slackened, and inquire whether that was intentional.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Mallock was soon back, saluting.
“Engine tender reports, sir, that he slowed down the speed in obedience to the indicator.”
“But I-----” Farley began. Then he checked himself abruptly, noting out of the corner of his eye that Dan Dalzell had wandered over to the rail and stood looking off to seaward. If Dan were responsible for the slowing down of the speed, and admitted it under questioning, then Farley, under the regulations, would be obliged to report Dalzell, and that young man already had some demerits against his name.
“Oh, very good, then, Mallock,” was Midshipman Farley’s rather quick reply. “Who is the ranking officer visible below at present?”
“Ensign Somers, sir.”
“Very good. My compliments to Mr. Somers, and ask at what speed he wishes to run.”